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To become a bigger something, you gotta be a nothing in between.

Feivel's Bad Day

Feivel's Bad Day

To become a bigger something, you gotta be a nothing in between.

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Feivel's Bad Day: To become a bigger something, you gotta be a nothing in between.

To become a bigger something, you gotta be a nothing in between.
Descent for the Sake of Ascent, Sadness; Grief, Depression, Merirrut

The Kabbalah of Dips, Downs, Outs and Transformation:

They say life has its ups and downs. It's not true. Life is ups and downs.

Let's start with breathing. Pretty important for life, right? All the major classes of structural molecules in living organisms need oxygen, so you gotta breathe. You do that by creating a vacuum inside. At that point, you become weaker, more helpless. You don't want to take a punch when you're inhaling. But that's when you pull in the oxygen that your hemoglobin will carry from your lungs to every cell in your body. That's how you recharge.

For that oxygen and everything other vital substance to get around your body, your heart needs to pump. It also does this by creating a vacuum—a hydraulic vacuum—so it can pull in the old blood and pump out the new.

Then there's your neurons, firing in a harmonious rhythm conducted by the field marshall of your brain, the thalamus: positive charge—fire; negative charge—receive; marching at about 20 times per second when you're active, mellowing to a soft 10 or so when you relax.

Those aren't the only rhythms drumming away in your body and your environs. You may have noticed that even your money works this way: You spend in order to get. You invest in order to earn. Even money joins in the cosmic dance, the song of being, that resonates through every participant of existence in the universe. Everything is in constant pulse, because everything is energy and all energy oscillates in waves. There is no crest that is not preceded by a trough, no positive without first a negative; everything is constantly moving, vibrating, pulsating with the breath of life. As soon as any particle would cease this dance of life and retreat to stillness, it would disappear into the void of zero energy.

The Kabbalah describes the songs of the angels in constant "running and return." The Midrash speaks of the song each creature sings, the song by which it achieves life, those rhythms, those vibrations of life. Time itself is simply the grand pulse of the entire universe in a cycle of millennia, years, days and moments.

The Energy Problem

Why must the universe do a song and dance to earn its right to exist? Here's what the Kabbalah has to say:

Everything that exists is projected onto the four-dimensional stage of space and time by a boundless, transcendent source of energy, a.k.a. the Infinite Light. Every moment, every galaxy, every star, every critter and every subatomic particle must be sustained by that light or it will return to the void. Just like the stuff in my Isifier.

Problem is, the Infinite Light is infinite. The stuff that it's sustaining is decidedly finite. So how do you funnel infinite energy into finite stuff?

Now that I've got the interest of the Energy Commission, I'll explain the Big Problem:

The Big Problem isn't just that infinite is too big to fit into finite. It's that, from the perspective of the truly infinite, finite things simply don't exist. If you would break the membrane between the Infinite Light and the finite creation, the whole caboodle would just be gone. No fizz. No pop-bang-zap burnout. Just gone, like it never was. Because from the Infinite's perspective, this whole reality of ours was never really there to begin with.

So here's the trick: For each thing in the universe to be a something, it has to first dip back into a place where it is nothing. That's when it receives it's vitality and can become a something again. Then, returning to somethingness, it finds itself orphaned, cut off from its source. So it returns to nothingness once again, and becomes revitalized, in an endless loop.

That's how energy works: The trough of a wave is the return to nothingness, the crest is the retreat to somethingness. The more something you want to be, the more nothing you have to become first. There's just no other way to receive.

And that's how it happens in life on earth as well. If you just want to move along step by incremental step, you can be satisfied with the regular cycle of dips and bounces through life. But when it's time for you to make a major leap in life, to reach to something that was previously way out of your bounds, that's when you find yourself dipping into an all-time low. That's the crouch before the jump, the kvetch of a spring before its release, the compression of gases before a big gaboom.

How To Squeeze a Lemon

Of course, not every retreat leads to victory, just as not every seed that rots under the ground will break through and blossom. For us human being, it's a matter of choice: You could choose to remain cramped within that crouch, and eventually just collapse—or just go on as though it never happened. What a shame—such a waste of a good depression!

Or you could exploit that depression to your advantage. Be like the child on a swing, pumping her feet just as she reaches the apex of her backward climb. Go with the flow, play along with the game, take advantage of your sour state to make lemon juice, saying, "Hey I'm not the ultimate center of the universe after all. In fact, I'm pitifully far from where I really want to be."

In case you didn't know, every act of life pulls energy from somewhere; either from the supernal channels of light or from the dark matter of Otherness; from the sweet springs of Divine Life or the sewer of the cosmic parasites; in harmony with the transcendental symphony or totally out of tune in the wrong key and meter; sitting at lunch with the Master of All Things or reaching to the dregs of His refuse containers out back.

So you start asking, "Where am I connected? Look at all the stupid fantasies playing incessantly in my mental meTube. What kind of a crazy channel are they tuned into? The words that come out of me, the habits I can't break—what station am I on?"

The depression turns to bitter, seething resentment. That's good. Depression is death; bitterness is the resurrection of the dead, where Dr. Life meets Mr. Death and performs CPR. There is anger, a kind of internal fury as the soul begins to catch fire. Like the Zohar says in the name of the Dean of the Academy of the Garden of Eden, "When you want a log to catch fire, you break it up. When you want to catch fire, you also need to break yourself up, to shatter your old self and start again."

Out of the ashes, a new self emerges. That's when you hear a small voice whisper, "There's a lot of things about me that need to be jettisoned, like a lizard sheds its skin, or a crustacean abandons its shell in order to grow. Inside me lies a G_dly soul, with infinite power. If only I could let go of my self-infatuation, my nutty fantasies and dumb habits, perhaps then the light of that Divine soul could shine through."

It's in that broken state that you are able to receive, to open up to the light within you and thereby tap into the unlimited power source from which that light extends. Finally liberated from that cumbersome backpack of artificial ego, unhindered by the baggage of false self-concept, now you can really start to fly, carry-on only.

Beyond Success

Sometimes, it's time for not just a major leap, but a quantum leap. Not just from little bear to big bear, but metamorphosis, from creepy-crawly bug to beautiful butterfly. From dinky little seed to big strong oak.

This may sound crazy, but the only way to totally break out of who you are and become something entirely new is through failure. "The Tzadik," wrote Solomon the Wise, "falls and stands seven times." Nothing can get you greater success than failure.

Everything we talked about until now is part of the natural order. Failure is not within the natural order. True failure is when you mess up and dip beneath your capabilities, beneath your nature. True failure is not just being incompetent. It's when you are capable of being great and you let the world down. That's when you're having a real bad day.

But the Kabbalah reveals that failure is also part of The Plan. Because dipping below nature is the only way a being can soar beyond it. Only once broken, are we able to put the pieces back together and build something totally new.

The moon is darkest when closest to the sun.

Become small, receive and then shine.

For more on failure and transformation, see Broken & Whole.

Written and conceived by Tzvi Freeman. Rabbi Freeman is available for public speaking and workshops. Read more on his bio page.
Music by The Piamentas
Rabbi Infinity played by Andrew Torres
Animation and SFX by Pilar Newton of Pilar Toons
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Anonymous April 24, 2016

Thank you, this is everything. Reply

Levi via chabadofvenice.com March 8, 2016

It's cute Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman December 13, 2010

Re: How far does the concept go? It works because there really are no descents in G-d's universe. The entire universe is in an upward spiral towards achieving its purpose from its beginning until its fulfillment.

If so, it would seem that should only apply to matters that are part of that ascent--of fulfilling the purpose of being--not to making money, etc.. But then, we have faith that G-d is good and all He does is good. And its amazing how much that faith can accomplish. Reply

YH December 13, 2010

How far does the concept go? Sounds like you are talking exclusively about personal/spiritual growth.

Is it a given that someone who lost all his money will regain it plus more? I don't think so.

That if you lose a job you will get a better one? I don't think so.

And yet I have heard the concept applied in these other ways too. Is that right or wrong? Reply

Heather Byrne pennsville, nj/usa August 8, 2010

thank you today, I have felt like that nothing in between. Thank you for reminding me that G-d has a plan and I will be a big oak tree one day :) Reply

Shahid August 2, 2010

Amazing! Amazing and beautifully described! Light to us all! Thanks for sharing!

Regards. Reply

Sir. Nethanel Zion Ben-Yahushua August 1, 2010

Kabbalah Me and my daughter love Kabbalah Toons.

We watch this show together all the time. Reply

Anonymous sydney July 12, 2009

Thankyou for your inspiring message, It really helped me with what I am going through at the moment. Reply

jew girls March 14, 2008

she loves the kabbala toons my sister loves the kabbala toons and they are very cool thank you Reply

S.K. in the USA March 1, 2008

I like the Kabbalatoons, and only recently discovered that below it is further explanation of the concept in the 'toon. My ONLY disagreement with it is the name "Dr. Infinity". I think Inifinity can only be ascribed to G-d. I do learn from the toons, and my 5-year old grandson asked to see again the "brain walking his arms" one when he was internalizing the message of the brain controlling one's actions He was working on controlling his arms to not hit. Reply

menachem cylich melbourne, VIC ,AUS February 28, 2008

waiting I've been waiting a week for the next kabbalatoon!
when"s it going to be out?
I'm getting impatient because it's just so good! Reply

menachem cylich melbourne, VIC ,AUS March 30, 2008

waiting I've been waiting a week for the next kabbalatoon!
when"s it going to be out?
I'm getting impatient because it's just so good! Reply

Anonymous thornhill, Ont February 27, 2008

Apology for my previous incoherent message Roxane is right, an answer to all of life's problems is something that requires a solution to resolve those problem; not just an explenation for them.

Rabbi Freeman did a great job in this episode giving us something that is so important- allowing our problems to have meaning. Reply

Melissa Greenville, SC February 26, 2008

Just Saw R Infinty's Bio I just saw R Infinity's blog bio and am picking myself up off the floor from laughing. That was just great.

In a secret location somewhere plotting how to educate the masses in Tanya...ahhhh.

We should all have better success at our educational pursuits, both pursuing education (on this site and otherwise) and pursuing the goal of educating others. Reply

Rabbi Infinity February 26, 2008

Hey Chanah & Roxanne.... ....beautiful stuff! Wanna write the next blog for me? Reply

Chanah February 26, 2008

Rabbi Freeman, thank you for tuning us in to the rhythm within life, helping me appreciate that's its unpredicdability is actually music. Reply

Chanah February 26, 2008

The discussion here is focused on serious downs. The rhythm that is the subject of this blog also drives the constant surges and retreats we take for granted most of the time and sometimes are frustrate by. R' Infinity didn't mention sleep. "Night People" - and teenagers - can relate to the tensions of the day's accelerating momentum meeting the deceleration of everything else. As the sky darkens and the hours before the alarm clock's ringing lessen, I have to face the fact that I was created with a need to stop, that my energy is not my own, and that when I resume my activities tomorow the broken momentum will provide an oppurtunity to replace adrenaline with intent.
Often - extending this example beyond its bounds - we are forced to retreat at the very apex of our power. I invision an ocean wave, swelling until it breaks and swallows itself, and then driven forward by a surge of energy rising from below.
Retreat is not necassarily failure. Sometimes we can confuse the two. Reply

Roxanne (goy) February 25, 2008

Failure and Feivel Anonymous wrote that this cartoon in essence "solved" everyone's dilemmas in the fact that problems are required to reach an end goal. I don't think it "solves" them as much as it gives us inspiration to use downtime for something worthwhile.

Doesn't the very fact that there is an end goal constitute a "problem" in itself? I mean to say is, I agree with Reb Infinity (R' Freeman) here. Angels don't have problems or end goals. People do.

Maybe a lot of our problems are the result of having a goal that is not good for us, or doesn't use our talents correctly or fully, or one G-d knows we will not be happy if things go well in the *short* run. I mean, the problem *readjusts* the goal; problems don't just smack us in the face for no reason. I don't believe from all I've studied, the G-d of Isreal does stuff like that.

So...when will there be Feivel plushies and keychains available for purchase on chabad.com? Feivel would be too cute sitting next to my pillow! :) Reply

Ari Edson Thornhill, Ont February 25, 2008

.....In continuation of past message Chassidus is filled with such types of concepts. Start with an English translated discourse "How To Know G-d" authored by Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schnerson; Translated by Eliyahu Touger.

Go to; www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/85424/jewish/Maamar-VeYadaata.htm Reply

Anonymous Thornhill, Ont. February 25, 2008

Rabbi Freeman, I think what Melissa was saying is that in this cartoon you have now given us an answer to all of life's problems and in doing so you have implied that a problem is required to succesfully reach the end goal. Rabbi Infinity, perhaps you tried to hard. Reply